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Agents raid home of ex-National Archives official

By Ed O'Keefe and Spencer S. Hsu

Updated 6:19 p.m. ET
By Ed O'Keefe, Spencer S. Hsu and Lisa Rein

Federal agents raided the home of a former National Archives and Records Administration employee Tuesday after watchdogs said the agency is leaving itself vulnerable to significant security breaches by failing to properly safeguard sensitive information.

About a dozen federal and local agents executed a search warrant Tuesday at the Rockville home of Leslie Waffen, in the 500 block of Saddle Ridge Lane, said Deputy U.S. Marshal David Ablondi, spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service in Maryland. (An earlier version of this posting inaccurately said the raid took place Thursday.)

A law enforcement official said five U.S. Marshals agents assisted three or four agents with the National Archives Office of Inspector General. They were backed up by a Montgomery County Police squad car. It appeared that Waffen and his wife were awakened by the agents. They were dressed in sweats and a house coat, respectively, said the official, who asked for anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Archives agents arrived with a moving truck and list of items they were searching for. Waffen directed the agents to his basement, where they identified and removed "10 to 20 boxes," a law enforcement official said. Agents were at the home for about 45 minutes, but the official did not identify what was contained in the boxes.

"He was surprised at first, and then I guess resigned," the official said. "His wife, she was almost hysterical and then she calmed down. He was subdued."

Waffen was not arrested and was not charged, the official said. Waffen is the former chief of NARA's motion picture, sound and video branch, according to the agency's Web site.

Waffen could not immediately be reached and his attorney, Michael Fayad, declined to comment. The raid was first reported by TBD.com.

"OIG agents did in fact execute a search warrant at a residence in Rockville, Md.," NARA Inspector General Paul Brachfeld confirmed in an interview. "Right now, the whole issue is under seal, and I can't talk about it at this point in time."

Brachfeld said agents from his office were working with U.S. Attorney for Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and that he would have more to say "at an appropriate time."

NARA will fully cooperate with authorities in ongoing theft investigations, Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero said in a memo sent to employees Thursday.

"As I have stated on several occasions, the security of the holdings of the National Archives is my highest priority," he said. "I will not tolerate any violation of the law that protects both records and property that belongs to the U.S. government and the American people. We have recently put in place a holdings protection team that is working closely with archival units to design improved training techniques, institute new policies and procedures, and purchase new equipment to ensure that our holdings are safe."

Ferriero also commended the inspector general's office for its "commitment to ensuring the restoration of stolen property back to the National Archives."

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who has tracked NARA security concerns for years, said, "It's good to hear the archivist say that securing holdings is his highest priority. There's a lot of work to be done because these problems have needed correction for years. I hope there will be a plan to get the organization back on track quickly."

Reports by the Government Accountability Office found NARA is leaving itself open to hackers as it preserves records electronically. Auditors found the agency did not protect its computer networks with strong firewalls, used weak passwords and failed to encrypt sensitive information.

The report also highlighted a "large and persistent" backlog of paper and media records that need to be preserved.

Sen. Thomas E. Carper (D-Del.), who also tracks NARA issues, said he is "deeply concerned" by GAO's reports.

"The items in jeopardy are more than just pieces of paper, collectibles, or electronic files - they are priceless links that connect us to our nation's history and help tell the story of America," Carper said. "So I am sure it is unsettling to the American people - as it is to me - that the monumental task of preserving these valuable artifacts is not always being performed to the standards we all should expect."

Lawmakers last year blasted NARA for the theft of a hard drive with one terabyte's worth of sensitive data from the Clinton administration. The drive contained national security information, more than 100,000 Social Security numbers, contact information for Clinton administration officials, Secret Service and White House operating procedures, event logs, social gathering logs and political records.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe and Spencer S. Hsu  | October 28, 2010; 4:17 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments  
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Comments

"Officer, I was just keeping the material safe on behalf of NARA, and was planning to return it, honest."

Expect the indictment or arrest soon....

Posted by: hungrypirana | October 28, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Waffen could not immediately be reached and his attorney declined to comment. The arrest was first reported by TBD.com.

-What arrest?

Posted by: jbison | October 28, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

"Waffen could not immediately be reached and his attorney declined to comment. The arrest was first reported by TBD.com."

---I'm reading about a search. What arrest?

Posted by: jbison | October 28, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Maybe he discovered something about John Kennedy that others didn't want known? Waffen had a role in restoring a tape of that Day in Dallas.

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B00E6DF173CF930A3575BC0A9629C8B63

Posted by: washingtondc5 | October 28, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

They let him spend years identify and collecting objects of great scholarly or economic value, then they executed a warrant and seized them back. It's as if the guy created his own special collection of valuables for them.

Posted by: blasmaic | October 29, 2010 5:44 AM | Report abuse

After reading the articles I am still wondering what the material in question was? Did he allegedly take fragile sound or film products that could degenerate under less than perfect conditions? Did he take papers that were spoiling from age? Were there national security secrets in the boxes? Were they the remains of Judge Crater, Amelia Earhart, or Jimmy Hoffa? I will suspend judgement until these questions are answered by facts.

Posted by: renodbpd | October 29, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Just 20 boxes of irreplaceable audiovisual materials?

What do you say we revisit this "case" in four months to determine where those boxes are then?

Leslie Waffen, however, might be unavailable for comment, especially if he's at home in Antigua.

Posted by: clitteigh | October 29, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

Whatever happened to innocent until PROVEN guilty? Before we pass judgment, let's see what's in the boxes.

Posted by: mamamouse | October 29, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

what was all this stuff doing in his basement,and how did he get it all home???

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Posted by: itkonlyyou341 | October 29, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

he was about to let the world know that the CIA killed john kennedy

Posted by: FranknErnest | October 29, 2010 9:43 PM | Report abuse

actually it was the secret service detail that helped.

Posted by: FranknErnest | October 29, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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